Casablanca, 1980


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1980, some fans of Kiss were ready to throw in the towel. Their previous album, Dynasty, was the first in several years to not go platinum, and their change in sound and approach to the music was not seen as a positive move for the band. Internally, they were falling apart.

Unmasked is seen as the beginning of the end for classic Kiss, as it was the first album to not feature the work of one of its members – namely, drummer Peter Criss. Anton Fig, who had done some work behind the skins for Kiss in the studio, handled all the drums on this disc. Kiss also began relying heavily on outside songwriters, especially the work of Vini Poncia (who also produced Unmasked).

The end result proved to be, at least sales-wise, another disappointment. Quality-wise, I have only one thing to say about this disc: it could have been worse.

Oh, make no mistake, this is by no means an improvement on the disappointment that Dynasty was – in fact, some of these tracks are downright horrible. But even amongst the rubble, there are a few moments where there lies a slim promise of better things to come.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I'm probably in the minority on this one, but I actually like “Shandi,” and I'm not going to make any bones about it. Yes, it's far from the hard-rock style that Kiss had become known for. But, then again, no one was calling “Beth” or “I Was Made For Loving You” bang-your-head classics. Simply put, this turns out to be a well-written song with a catchy chorus, and it rightfully was culled from the album as a single. Likewise, “Naked City” is an enjoyable track, though it is more attuned to the classic sound that Kiss had become known for, and bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons seems to have just the right kind of creepy charm to pull this one off.

If only there were more moments on Unmasked like these. The bulk of the album teeters between listenable throwaway songs (“Talk To Me,” “Tomorrow,” “Two Sides Of The Coin”) to watered-down schlock that shouldn't have ever made it off the cutting room floor (“She's So European,” “What Makes The World Go Round,” “You're All That I Want”).

And then, there's “Torpedo Girl,” a song I'm willing to bet that Ace Frehley wishes he could get a mulligan on. From the cheezy sound effects in the opening to the camp sexual overtones throughout the song, this is one that, if there is a merciful God above, I will never ever have to listen to again. If you needed proof that Kiss was in trouble with a capital “T” (and that rhymes with “P”, and that stands for “pitiful”), this track is exhibit “A.”

While Unmasked definitely marked another step in the wrong direction for Kiss, and as disappointing as this album is overall, to call it the albatross around the band's neck is not entirely true. For yes, Virginia, there are a few moments cast among the dreck that make the listener think, “Gee, Kiss might just turn this thing around!” Too bad that for every good song, there are four or five icebergs right in front of the ship.

Unmasked marked the first of many albums of transition for Kiss, as they tried everything they could think of to remain relevant to a changing musical tide. (The true unmasking, of course, was still a few years away.) But while this disc showed that Kiss was still occasionally capable of writing and performing a good song, there isn't enough on this disc to recommend it to anyone other than completists or sadomasochists...which, some might argue, are one and the same.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2017 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Casablanca, and is used for informational purposes only.